Monday, 29 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 42: Yoritomo confessed his love to Masako!

Minamoto no Yoritomo (Okada Masaki), ep 42

This week’s Taira no Kiyomori brings me the happy news about Yoritomo confessing his love to Masako! Of course the feeling was reciprocal, but the confession did not happen before an arranged marriage and a girl’s escaping the wedding entourage. On the Heike side, we have Kiyomori murdering Saiko and Narichika, an action which appalled his darling son Shigemori.

You may be able to watch it online in Pandora TV, FC2 or the like, but perhaps you have to wait for more than 24 hours. The Pandora account where I usually watch the rerun of TNK episodes have deleted ep 41, and I don’t think he/she will upload ep 42. But I got lucky last night and found another Pandora account which uploaded TNK ep 41 here. I assume he/she will upload ep 42 as well. Fingers crossed. [Edit: Click here to watch ep 42 online! I've watched it several times by 16 Nov, and this is by far my fave TNK episode]

Episode 42 opened with a Heike scene as per NHK World Premium’s summary here:

Kiyomori receives secret information that the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and his aides, including Narichika and Saiko, are plotting to overthrow the Taira family. Kiyomori bursts in anger and captures Saiko to extort a confession out of him. Saiko, however, outrages Kiyomori by saying things that rub Kiyomori the wrong way, and Kiyomori orders for the execution of Saiko. Narichika is also captured and killed off by Kiyomori, despite Shigemori's desperate plea for Narichika's life. Witnessing Kiyomori's mercilessness to those who stand in the way, Shigemori becomes fearful of Kiyomori.

From the Genji side, Hōjō Masako (Watanabe Anne) was practicing her archery skill when her father Hōjō Tokimasa (Endo Kenichi) summoned her. Turned out, dearly beloved father wanted Masako to marry Yamaki Hangan Kanetaka, a powerful local Heike ruler. I am under the impression that this arranged marriage was connected to ep 41, in which two Taira goons (I think their names were Yoshiaki and Hideyoshi?) came to the Hōjō house and said something that concerned Tokimasa. Anyway, whatever. Tokimasa told her daughter how Yamaki Kanetaka was a good man; he was going to make her happy, etc etc etc. As expected, Masako politely declined the marriage offer (I mean, order). I’m not sure if she said that her heart was with someone else, but as the result, Tokimasa slapped his own daughter. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 41: Yoritomo started to trust Masako

Minamoto no Yoritomo (Okada Masaki), ep 41

This week’s TNK brings us more Matsuda Shota – I mean, Go-Shirakawa – mourning Shigeko with Lady Gion (Matsuda Seiko) by his side. We also had quite a lot of Yoritomo-Masako, to my glee, in addition to the budding bromance of Benkei and Yoshitsune.  In the Heike side, we have Taira no Shigemori starting to question his father’s action. Below is the summary from Auberginefleur:

In 1177, Saiko's son gets into a skirmish with Buddhist monks at a temple on Mt. Hakusan, and the incident escalates into a brawl, involving Buddhist monks of Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. The cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa orders Shigemori to take up arms against the warrior monks, however, Shigemori's retainer accidentally hits the mikoshi (portable shrine) carried by the monks with an arrow, which triggers a new problem. To quell the disturbance, Kiyomori again leads his troops into Kyoto.

As you may be well aware now, I’m not a Japanese speaker. So I rely on several times watching TNK to understand what transpires in each episode (or at least in the scenes I’m interested in). Unfortunately, the Pandora TV site hasn’t uploaded ep 41 yet (they even deleted ep 40, OMG!), so I am just writing this based on my memory and notes (yes, I did make notes while watching TNK, in between stirring my risotto tonite!).  

[Edit 27.10.12: Click this (Pandora TV) or this (FC2) to watch  TNK ep 41 online.]

'Haru comes down from the second floor' (Gravity’s Clowns commentary)

Haru (Okada Masaki) came down from the second floor

I got a new favourite song a few days ago, called ‘Sometimes’ by S.R.S., an indie Japanese music group. The song was the OST for ‘Gravity’s Clowns/Juryoku Pierrot’, a 2009 movie starring among others my favourite Okada Masaki. It was another beautiful movie of Masaki’s which showed his maturing acting skill back three years ago. 

In the movie directed by Mori Junichi, Masaki was paired with Kase Ryo, a very talented actor 15 years older than Masaki, and Kohinata Fumiyo – a very impressive veteran actor – as his father, Mr Okuno. The story was based on a 2006 novel titled ‘A Pierrot’ written by Isako Kotara and was translated into the wide screen by Aizawa Tomoko. Watch it online here.

The movie plot revolved around a dark family secret that was kept away from the two Okuno brothers (Ryo as Izumi and Masaki as Haru) until the death of their mother. Along the way, the movie introduced us to several arson cases all over the city of Sendai, some random graffiti, a female stalker and a chronic rapist let loose. The seemingly unrelated events came together after the Okuno boys discovered that the arsonist left a series of clue in the form of DNA codes. 

This deep movie is made deeper by the fact that the story was set in Sendai, one of the places obliterated by the Tohoku (east Japan) earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

Click here for the cool English version of ‘Sometimes’. The Japanese version and the spoilers for the movie are under the cut.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Downton Abbey Season Three!

Downton Abbey Season Three

I cannot believe I'm a month's late for this! But better late than never. Ladies and Gents, just a shortie to tell you that I've just watched Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 1 where Mary Crawley is married to Matthew Crawley. Yay!

For those who are not familiar with Downton Abbey, here's the Wiki link. I've seen Seasons One and Two and I was so addicted, I practically remembered major lines there! Practically from Lady Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) who is now the favourite matron and grandmother of many period drama fans! Suffice to say, I want to be as cool as her when I grow old. Lady Grantham rocks! Oh, but she Lady Grantham has Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) - her in law - as her sparring partner this season. I see intriguing banters ahead! Who says that the excitement of Downton Abbey is only in watching Mary-Matthew, Sybill-Branson or Edith-Anthony Strallan? Not that those are not exciting; they are. But to me, the star of Downton has always been Dame Maggie Smith's Lady Grantham!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 40: Shigeko and Masako

Taira no Shigeko, NHK

This week’s TNK focuses on two important women in the Heian Era: Taira no Shigeko and Hōjō Masako. The episode takes us to a big event in Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa’s private life: the death of Shigeko (his favourite court lady). In addition, Minamoto no Yoritomo started to interact with Hōjō Masako. Below is the summary from Auberginefleur for episode 40:

In 1174 in Fukuhara, Japan-Sung trade has already started. Kiyomori advises the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Shigeko to visit Itsukushima Shrine to pray for the nation's prosperity. Meanwhile, Saiko and Narichika (Go-Shirakawa's aides) start to fear the growing power of the Taira family. Shigeko tells Saiko and Narichika to act as a bridge between Go-Shirakawa and the Taira family. However, after the passing of Shigeko in 1176, the power balance within the Imperial Court begins to fall apart. Around the same time in Izu, Yoritomo and Hōjō Masako are gradually nurturing their love.

'Yoritomo and Masako gradually nurturing their love' didn't quite capture what happened here. Read on to know why. 

Episode 40 (see here online) opened with the trade between Japan and the Sung Dynasty. I liked it how the Sung people spoke in Mandarin instead of Japanese. Then the story switched to Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and his wife Taira no Shigeko. Shigeo (Narumi Riko) was not only Go-Shirakawa’s wife; she was also Kiyomori’s sister in law because Shigeko was Tokiko’s sister (Tokiko was Kiyomori’s dear wife). Shigeko held an important role in the Heian court, because she was the bridge between the Emperor family and the Taira clan. Shigeko was also the mother of Price Norihito, later known as Emperor Takakura. Go-Shirakawa (Matsuda Shota) seemed to love Shigeko very much. Despite his monk status, he still flirted with her, read poetries with her and making love with her.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Secret of the Nagas

Cover to the Secret of the Nagas

Last July, I wrote this post and this post about my fascination to Amish Tripathi’s first book of the Shiva Trilogy: Immortals of Meluha. I was so impressed by it that i showed the book to one of my best friends (before reading the whole lot, actually), and I got another Amish fan. We decided to purchase the second instalment, The Secret of the Naga off eBay or Amazon. Unfortunately, the only available copies are in India, and they don’t ship overseas. Why oh why, that is the big question here.

Anyway, after bugging and begging my Indian friend, she sent me two packs of Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas from Two Nagas for myself, one Meluha for my friend, another one for her friend who wants to read it too. The books arrived last Monday. I delivered my friend’s share immediately that evening, and started reading that night. I finished the whole book in three nights, on Wednesday night (actually, half an hour after midnight of Thursday). 

Below is my review and spoilers for ‘The Secret of the Nagas’. It contains heavy spoilers, so you better stop reading if you plan to read the book without spoilers. By the way, Naga here refers to people with deformities, hence outcast by both the Suryavanshi (Meluha) and Chandravanshi (Swadweep). Naga here doesn’t mean ‘the dragon’, as is in the Indonesian language.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Matataki (Blink)

Poster of Matataki

a.k.a. ‘Piecing Me Back Together’ was a 2010 movie I watched this afternoon to quench my thirst of another Okada Masaki performance. The movie didn’t disappoint me, although Masaki’s screen time wasn’t a lot there. It wasn’t because he wasn’t the main actor. He was. But rather, because Matataki is telling the story of Sonoda Izumi (Kitagawa Keiko), a young woman whose boyfriend died during a traffic accident they experienced together.

Yep, Matataki is a sad story. Sad, but encouraging as well in the end. It didn’t stop me from crying like a baby, though. My eyes were wet into the first 5 minutes of the movie. I wailed – yes, wailed – during several scenes. I sobbed when I learned what truly happened to Izumi and Junichi Konou (Masaki’s character). But here I’m getting ahead of myself as usual. After the trailers below, I post the recap of Matataki. Heavy spoilers, so for those who want to see it online here (English subbed) without spoilers, you better stop reading this.  

Taira no Kiyomori ep 39: Yoshitsune vs Benkei!

Yoshitsune defeating Benkei, from Vingle

TNK ep 39 (1172 CE) opened with the legendary fight between Yoshitsune and Benkei at Gojo Bridge. Yoshitsune (Kamiki Ryonosuke) was at that time known as Sanaou; Benkei (Aoki Munetaka) was known as Onikawa. It seems that Benkei thought that Sanaou was a Heike. Because the monk was always challenging Heike samurai, Benkei attacked Sanaou. But the boy easily took over the monk’s sword and defeated the monk. Soon enough, the scary Heike girls in red came and challenged them. For some reasons unknown to me (oh, English subtitle...), the girls ran away. Yoshitsune found himself parrying Benkei’s naginata once more. But when the boy defeated the stubborn monk again, for some reasons Benkei realised that he wasn’t dealing with a Heike. He was in fact fighting one of the sons of Minamoto no Yoshitomo. Apparently, Benkei had met young Sanaou in the past (when the boy’s name was Ushiwakamaru). Surprised to see the child already grown into a boy, Benkei held Sanaou and twirled him around. Sanaou’s funny expression reminded me of Himura Kenshin’s (Sateru Satou) amused expression in Rurouni Kenshin live action (that I haven’t seen because the English sub hasn’t been distributed outside Japan yet. Arrrgghh!).

Meanwhile, back with the Heike, here’s Auberginefleur’s summary (taken from NHK, I think):

In 1172 in Fukuhara, Kiyomori with the backing of the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa steadily advances construction work of a port, together with Usagimaru (Kiyomori's retainer) to prepare for the trading with Sung. Kiyomori orders Usagimaru to complete the construction as quickly as possible, however, Usagimaru condemns Kiyomori for acting out of self-interest, over his once held ambitions. The rift between Kiyomori and Usagimaru become irreparable.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori opening music & Yoritomo ep 32-34

Yoritomo, Yae-hime and baby Senserumaru (NHK)

I've been listening to the opening music of Taira no Kiyomori so many times. The music is so beautiful. Alas, I can't find the opening credit in YouTube or other embed-dable sites. However, I found this video on YouTube containing just the music (without the video), but that should be enough to give you a taste of how it good it is. Click here to watch the opening credit (it's actually the first ep of TNK with English sub).

Also, since there isn't enough Okada Masaki these days (I'm still waiting for the English-subbed of Space Brothers and Akko-chan), I watched ep 32-34 of TNK just to know what happened to Yoritomo. Well, as I posted earlier, in ep 32 Yae-hime and Yoritomo had a son. A kawaii son called Senserumaru. From what I saw in ep 32, it seems that Yae-hime was scolded by his family for getting pregnant with Yoritomo's offspring. But Yoritomo insisted that he would protect Yae and the baby. So, when the baby was already delivered, Yae took the baby boy to see his father. Yoritomo's surprise and happiness were very apparent. For a while, he believed that he could be happy again.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Ray Tate's "The Importance Of Being Brave And Bold: Wonder Woman"

The Brave and the Bold 158
I noticed something recently: that my blog hit increases rather amazingly for a tangent, personal blog. Such that I felt the need to install ClustrMap just to let myself (and readers) know who visits here. Internal statistics of Blogger will do, but ClustrMap allows my visitors (you, my dear friends) to take a peek as well. 

Several reasons made the blog hit increased. Prior to the end of August 2012, I think the readers mostly wanted to read about Nicky Wu Qilong's 'Li Hou Zhu' series, which isn't available in English sub. But after 29 August 2012, I think the increased readership can be attributed to the sickening Superman-Wonder Woman pseudo-romance that DC has been force-feeding us.

Don't even get me started on that. I love Superman, I love Wonder Woman. But I can't see how the two are meant to be together, when (quoting a friend in the, 'their only common denominator was the colour of their costume'). So true! What, are all we high school students here that go all colour-coordinated?!

But, as I said, I won't go there. Too many sites already discussed the stupidity and utter idiocy of SMWW pairing. Doing it again here will waste my time. Instead, I will point out why Batman-Wonder Woman pairing is a much better option than SMWW!

Yes, my dearest friend! I have Batman-Wonder Woman leading the hit of my blog since last month. Get the stat: from 4 Sept to 3 Oct 2012, I have 161 hits for this entry. The same entry receives all-time highest hit of 4,108 hits (May 2008 to October 2012), 150% higher than the hit for 'Li Hou Zhu' (2,581). Another BMWW post received 1,847 hits of all time, by the way.

The all-time winning entry of my blog (The Bat, the Cat, and the Amazon) talks about the love triangle between Batman, Catwoman and Wonder Woman. Notice that I didn't bash Selina Kyle there. Nope, I still respect and love that character. Without WW's presence, I would actually choose BMCW easily as my foremost DC ship.